I believe that the practice of chamber music should be made mandatory for all pianists. In quartet it is wonderful, and I was immediately in love with it, so much so that I made it my reason for living. I do not think there is a more beautiful, difficult and perfect ensemble of the string quartet. As Luciano Berio says, not only is it the symbol of western musical civilization, but also “a school of democracy that everyone should have attended”. Playing for me in quartet was the natural landing for my “desire for music”: I just needed to find three other fellows with the same ideal and, fortunately, I found them already at school (we have been together for over 35 years. I think it’s a record!). Playing in the quartet is very simple and very difficult at the same time, and the first thing you must do is always take a step back. Then you come to know how to listen, to follow in a natural way, to shape your idea by forging it with that of the other three, to have respect for the will of others, to try to assemble your sound with their sound, their intonation, their vibrato to the service of a commen purpose. You must dedicate yourself exclusively to this activity neglecting and leaving other things and … without ever thinking about money! In the end, you must have a great passion and a great spirit of sacrifice. The personal qualities are not enough: it’s a unique quality that has to come out … a four-person wedding and a unique instrument with sixteen strings … I see many guys who are dedicated to the quartet today and this fills me with joy, because only knowing that a musician tries to devote himself to the quartet gives me a sense of great respect. I must say it is very easy to start, there is enthusiasm, desire to play, infinite musical beauty … then there are the problems of music and nature. So, if you are not supported by two basic things, passion and spirit of sacrifice, sooner or later you will stop. For this reason, as I said before, we must always be able to take a step back in our decisions in favor of a common good. Finally, for the orchestra, I have to say that I do not have enough experience to be able to give any advice, but what I heard playing at La Fenice in these short periods of my youth has thrilled me, introduced me to the world of Opera and made me love this world. I think working with singers is one of the most important experiences: when you are lucky enough to meet a high quality singer, you have the opportunity to learn a lot. In my short experience it was when I could admire the soprano Leyla Gencer. Being able to hear those wonderful sounds was a very informative moment. But I always refused the idea of playing in an orchestra that did not have an important quality. Wasting years of studying and becoming a sort of music clerk was not in my expectations. I never liked the approssimation in music and I learned to never underestimate even the simplest theme and the one you know best, so I always looked for a preparation that would give me the opportunity to play so as I wanted to play and I always had studied the parts a lot, but this was not very common at all … I have always wanted to be in charge of what I was playing and I always tried to prepare to play it. At the time there were many orchestras that did not have this quality, and this prevented me even just being able to stay inside. Today the level is much higher in general, because there are many talented and talented young people who have given quality boost to many orchestras. I think being able to play a cycle of Beethoven’s Symphonies could be the dream of every musician, and I miss other great symphonic masterpieces, but in your live you can not have everything …
In your professional activity, have you got more satisfaction in playing or in listening to any of your good pupils?
They are two completely different experiences and one does not exclude the other. Playing a great masterpiece with my quartet gives me a joy and a great satisfaction, because it is the realization of my dream as a young artist. But I had many talented students and when I listened to them in concert (for example some soloists with the orchestra) I have always experienced a natural pride and a paternal emotion, but it is a different satisfaction from what you feel when your fingers give life to music … Very often I get very excited to hear a student of mine, because I see myself in him in many things. So I try to take off my teacher dress (not to fall into the error of listening with the critical ear) and I simply enjoy the moment.
If you were asked to organize a concert for elementary school children to present the cello, what would you play?
I would like to try to present the cello in the easiest way for children, without talking too much and playing a lot. I would play everything, not just simple things, but also our most important repertoire, trying to highlight the sound and the tonal and expressive possibilities of the instrument. I would like to play pieces of various styles and ages, until today, to clarify that with the cello you can play everything, both Bach and a little tune.
What if they ask you to organize a concert for teenagers?
Adolescence is a difficult time … Teenagers already have their own very defined tastes, and they are more difficult to approach. We should find a way to explain what we play and how we play, without being pedantic, but I think it is important that they also understand the difficulty of playing well an instrument like the cello. Then I think the most important thing is to draw attention immediately, proposing a piece, for example something of Sollima, which colul be close to their sensitivity … and then you could lead them into the heart of the repertoire and let them discover our musical pearls. I speak of Sollima because I consider him an author who can have a very strong impact, because he makes the pressing rhythm and the immediate melody his main characteristic, which is well suited to such a young audience. A good idea could be to bring a small group of young students of music, to play some famous song and to understand the enormous and unique possibilities of this instrument.
Which are your favorite authors and which ones … you just can not stand?
I love all the music … the “beautiful” music, which you can find in every style and in every era … I’m used to this, and I try to push my students in this direction. With the group of cellos I created with some of my students, I study and prepare concerts with various programs. I always wanted to stimulate the musical curiosity of young people to all types of music, from the ancient style to the transcriptions of famous songs, to the important pieces of the repertoire for this ensemble, to modern music, to jazz and contemporary rock. I encouraged composer friends to write for us, to clarify that beautiful music can be found everywhere, and good performance depends only on the study. That said, I think I could never be without Bach’s Suites and, for the quartet, never without Beethoven. I can not stand bad quality music, without passion and without study, I can not stand music without inspiration and without a sense.
What are your musical projects for the immediate future?
For this year the realization of the “Brahms – Schumann cycle” at the Fondazione Cini in Venice, together with some exceptional friends such as Mario Brunello, Andrea Lucchesini, Danilo Rossi and Alessandro Carbonare. Then a busy tour in South America, and finally the completion of the Beethovenian integral, in Mantua and in Trieste.
I wish you a nice trip in the company of the music you love with so much passion and… thanks for your kindness!